Today at the swim meet, one of my former students anxiously approached me between events."Did you see where I returned your copy of Catching Fire to the shelf by your desk?" she wanted to know. I assured her that I knew right where it was, and I did, because I could visualize it there once she mentioned it. Truth be told, I do have a check-out system for the books in my classroom library, but I'm not very vigilant about enforcing it. It would take a chunk of class time and some dedicated punitive energy (two things in short supply) to regularly chase everyone down for my unreturned books. In the end, I would rather have books in the kids' hands than not, and so my collection takes a bit of a hit each year. Even so, I add to it regularly, the cost out of my own pocket-- I just think that if my students are excited about a book, they should be able to read it.
"Do you know what books your class might like?" she continued. "I just finished Airhead by Meg Cabot--" She stopped and looked at me suspiciously. "Have you read it? Do you have it already?" I laughed and told her no, so she gave a brief overview of the premise of the series. One of my current students stood at our elbows listening with interest. She and I made eye contact, and she nodded, as if to say, Oh yeah, we would totally love that, so I whipped out my phone and texted a quick memo to myself. (Both girls were duly impressed.)
Every year my main objective is to take the 80-odd sixth graders I will teach and to build a community of literacy. I want to be sure that they leave my class not only with the minimum requirements mandated by state and country, but also with the desire to continue practicing and improving the skills they need to be critical readers and effective writers. My role is to be a resource and a support as they pursue this important goal, and in light of that , as willing as I am to do whatever I can to make books available to my students, it's a hundred times more gratifying to have them come back and show that they still feel a connection to our community.